2016 in Reflection

It’s that time of year again. The time of year where Christmas music has officially been blasting in all retail stores for three months, temperatures have dropped below freezing, my warm fuzzy socks hide the fact I’m no longer shaving like its summer (#sorrynotsorry), and the Facebook Years in Review are rearing their superficial, only-choose-pictures-with-the-most-likes heads.

If you look at social media such as Facebook and Twitter, 2016 is being hailed the Worst Year of All Worst Years. There’s a lot of talk that 2017 has to be better because “it definitely can’t go worse!” Well, to show my merriment and own hopes for what the new year will bring, here’s my personal review of what 2016 was to me and what I’m looking forward to in the new year…

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I’ve been saying it for twelve months now, but let me say it again: I have never had a more difficult year than what 2016 brought to me. Not even the most upsetting broken heart could have prepared me for the loss I felt this past April. To this day, I still have nightmares where I wake up and have to comfort myself from the crippling weight it is to have a mentor, friend, and idol ripped from your life. I have not been, and doubt I ever will be, able to make sense of why this woman was taken from the world at such a (seemingly) important point in her life. This world doesn’t make sense sometimes, and 2016 was the year this Life Lesson truly debuted to me.

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Thankfully, though, even with such a tough lesson to work through, 2016 brought far more good to my life than it did evil. In February I was blessed to be able to take a family vacation with my parents to one of my favorite places on this Earth: Disney World. And not only did I enjoy my time with my closest loved ones, but I also completed the largest race I’ve ever attempted, the Glass Slipper Challenge. I ran a 10k race with my dad followed by a half marathon through the streets of Epcot, Magic Kingdom, and surrounding roadways. And, due to being so ill during the months leading up to the races, I really took a lot of pride in becoming a Finisher of both races and being able to wear my medals with a shining smile. It was an amazing opportunity and one I will always treasure! No one is ever too old for the magic of Disney!

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Aside from my family, 2016 was much easier to swallow due in large to the people I met through my church group, House. Never have I ever had a more caring, supportive group of friends. It’s amazing to realize what you were missing when you finally are granted what you needed! These people are such a central part of my life now, I don’t know how I functioned without them. I attend church with them every Sunday, I compete in trivia every Monday, we hold Bible studies on Wednesdays, we play Ultimate Frisbee, attend concerts, go line-dancing, play paintball, host game nights and movie marathons, dig volleyballs, and most Fridays and Saturdays involve one or two outings together. And during any downtime, there is usually banter, chatter, and sometimes even tears. I can go to any of my friends for advice and know that they’re honestly looking out for me with no strings attached. I’ve never had such people in my life before and I am eternally grateful that God dropped me into their little corner of the world.

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I’ve mentioned tears and crying a few times here, but don’t get me wrong! 2016 brought much more laughter and busyness to my life than any other year I can recall. I attended several events throughout the year including four weddings, the Pink Tie Ball, and the Little Black Dress Party. I took on more responsibility in my community involvement by acting as Secretary for Paint Our Towns Pink and becoming a board member of 100 Women Strong. I also picked up a bit of leadership with House by taking on all communications for the group as well as assisting with most event planning. It’s a blessing to be able to use my talents of organization, focus, and high energy to better my community and bring praise to God. I may not be exactly where I want to be long term, but for now I am content.

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As with most years, I had some wonderful new experiences in 2016. As I said, I ran the Princess race through Disney, but I also was able to revisit Florida with Wilbur’s family this past October. It was my first time vacationing with a SO’s family and I was incredibly nervous. The entire trip was fun! I experienced my first hurricane (Matthew) while in Florida, which is not something every Michigander gets to say… Apart from vacationing, 2016 also introduced me to the art of making dumplings, the beginning stages of venturing into homeownership,  revisiting my childhood at the Fantastic Beasts premier, road tripping to a new state (for me) of Minnesota, watching my Cubbies win the World Series, standing up in my best friend’s wedding and acting as mistress of ceremony in my other best friend’s wedding, and a number of other little trinkets to store in my memory.

Overall, 2016 was a pretty great year despite the sadness that still arises when thinking of those I lost. As I’ve come to say, I’ve lost some but gained so much more.

Looking to the future, I continue to try to live each day positively, curiously, and passionately. If I could survive 2016 and still look at Life and think is it beautiful, then 2017 has no fears for me..

To 2016, I’m thankful for what you taught me, but it does not break my heart to tell you good-bye. And to 2017… Bring it, New Year, I’m ready for you!

Letter to the Army

Nine months ago I met someone who changed my entire outlook on life and love. He was sweet and endearing and funny and, above all else, he looked past my exterior and fell for me, all of me, Ashley. We began seeing one another on a weekly basis, going out, enjoying one another’s company. And somewhere in between the joking and the laughing and the conversations, I fell in love with him.

Last night, he broke my heart.

There’s something odd about the way love works. People always say, “All you need is love.” but in reality, sometimes love is not enough. For Army, it seems that the latter is true.

I had this gut-feeling that something odd was going on in our relationship. Until about three weeks ago we were on a regular routine of date nights, weekend festivals, and monthly theater outings. Somewhere in the business of life and friends and dating, a key part of our relationship was lost. I’m still unsure what this key is or was, so I’m not positive on how to ever come to a concise closure on our relationship. As soon as I heard his voice asking to come to my house, I knew. I just… knew.

Army no longer felt he was at the mentality (I believe he used the word “level”) of providing me with my needs in terms of a long term committed relationship. Perhaps he felt I was rushing the relationship too quickly. Perhaps he was frustrated by not knowing what exactly I need and how he should supply the necessary energy. Perhaps he simply needs some time focusing on his new job and the stresses of finances. Or perhaps he’s just selfish and no longer wanted to consider two people when he could just himself. Whatever the case, he has every right to feel the way he does. That is how relationships work after all.

There were two people involved in our relationship though. And this was not what I wanted. In all honesty, I’m at a complete loss for words. When you love someone, and especially when you’re in a relationship with that person you love, all you want is to do right by him or her. The “needs” I had were not what I deem unreasonable: a hello and goodnight every day, care enough to ask how my day has gone, and be happy to be with me. For the majority of our relationship, my needs were met. And I was ecstatic; I was in love.

I do not want or need more at this time in my life. I’ve been on the track to marriage, and at this point in my life I’m not ready for that anymore. I have so much more I want to do with my life before I start a family: pay off my debt, travel the world, buy my own house. The only thing I wanted out of our relationship was time together, and I definitely didn’t need an ample supply of time; just enough to know I was worthwhile to someone.

When Army left me last night, he had tears in his eyes. That might have been the hardest part of the entire break up. Actually, even though the break up was very emotional, it was not incredibly dramatic. There was no screaming or begging. We simply talked. And sat. We were mature and, if anyone had been watching, it had to be obvious how much we care for each other. We sat together for over an hour. He held me, I held his hand, and we just talked. Him more than me, I suppose, but it had a strange calming air to the entire event.

Our talk consisted mostly of how much we enjoyed being in a relationship together. He told me he loved me, loved being with me, and that he always enjoyed the time we spent together. It’s simply something with him — it has nothing to do with me — and he’s lost on how to fix it. “I’m f***** up,” he said. He just isn’t ready for the same kind of commitment I am, he said. He tried to make it clear how he felt: that it was unfair of him to continue leading me on and treating me how he had the last few weeks when I could move on and be with someone much better than himself. I suppose, in his mind, he broke my heart to ultimately heal it.

That’s a difficulty too, though. I think he feels as if I wanted more from him than what we had. I didn’t and I don’t. I simply liked being with him. I liked having him as a companion. As a friend. That’s what I ultimately love about him; he is my friend. A true friend is hard to come by nowadays. You know, someone who you want to involve in every event, share secrets with, complain to and rant with. Someone who shares common interests with you and who is fine with not doing a damn thing other than vegging out. Someone who’s smile alone can make your entire crummy week vanish. That is what is most hurtful about losing him; I’m losing one of my best friends.

Even with the mature way we handled ourselves, I have so many questions left unanswered: where did we go wrong? Is there someone else? What could I have done better? Is there a way to compromise our levels of needs? Can we continue being friends one day? I think I did ask these things, or perhaps he even mentioned them, but with all the thoughts swirling in my head yesterday… I have no memory. All I remember is the hurt of losing him in my life.

The memories I do have are ones of happiness throughout our few months together. Out of all my relationships, I can honestly look back on mine and Army’s and have no regrets. I mean, breaking up obviously means there must be some regrets, but I don’t know where and when they occurred. I thought our relationship was pretty solid.

Before I met him, I was just living day by day. I enjoyed my life, I enjoyed my past relationships to a degree, but what Army and I had… It was what I needed to revamp my lifestyle. I needed a friend and he came at a dire point in my life. As I said, he helped me re-see how great life can be.

Now, I’m not saying I foresaw a potential future for us. I don’t think I ever looked that far ahead. Because with Army, I didn’t need to. I was satisfied with where I was in the then-and-now and there was no reason to put stress on an already happy and healthy relationship.

As with all relationships, when I say we were happy and healthy does not mean we didn’t have our issues. We were different people with vastly different backgrounds. He is moody and impatient, I am emotional and (sometimes overly) social. Yet, in the grand scheme, I do not believe that our personalities and histories negatively impacted our relationship. At least, that’s how I am going to look at our past. I think our opposites attracted, making us stronger as a couple and threw us out of our comfort zones to make us stronger individuals.

And (I’m chuckling to myself) that’s probably not a great way to look at it because it only confuses me more. I’m just not sure where we went wrong.

As these thoughts literally fill my entire mind, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • I do not need a boyfriend to be happy. I am plenty happy on my own. However, being with Army made me happier. That is what I cannot get over; I’m going to miss him absolutely because he makes my life a little more bright.
  • This break up is not what I wanted. I never once considered ending out relationship. I may not have been happy over the past few weeks but I thought it was just a rough-patch.
  • His decision to end our relationship weighed heavily upon his relationship maturity level and not on who I am as a person. I was the best girlfriend I could be to Army, and with that thought I am at least a tad bit proud.

In time maybe we will come back together as friends in the least, or perhaps we won’t. The possibilities are unknown, and though that terrifies me, the unknown is better than knowing someone I deeply care about is unhappy with their life in some respect due to me.

In the end, there’s always a new beginning. I’m not sure what God has in store for me. At this time, I do not want to dwell on what could have been (though I know, especially at night, I will). No, instead I want to look forward and jump into the unknown with no parachute.

There are two things I know for certain though: I’ll be okay. Just not today.